MANATEE COUNTY — For Braden River High junior Ivo Lima, it wasn’t a matter of if he would play soccer — but rather when.
As a native of Brazil, the sport was seemingly in his blood. And after first putting toe to soccer ball at age 9, Lima hasn’t stopped. Now, seven years later, the left midfielder who has aspirations of playing collegiate soccer and eventually turning pro, is one of the prominent players on FC Sarasota’s U17 boys team, which comprises some of the top soccer players in Manatee and Sarasota.
“We’re passionate about the sport, and we’re dedicated to doing our best,” Lima said.
Lima helped lead FC Sarasota to a 1-1-1 record at the 30th annual Surf Cup July 31 through Aug. 2 in San Diego. It was the first time FC Sarasota had competed in the Surf Cup, which is the second largest soccer tournament in the nation. This year, the Surf Cup featured the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in southern California along with teams from Guatemala, Mexico and Europe, among others.
“I’d like us to win at least one game,” Lima said before the tournament. “It’ll be different playing teams out of the state, so we have to stay on top of our game and not make mistakes.”
Teammate Tyler Marshall agreed.
“I expect us to at least try to make the finals and not just go out there and lose,” Marshall said. “We’re just going to try to do our best and see how far we get.”
The team, which was competing in the super bracket, tied Pateadores White 3-3 to open the tournament. In Game 2 of its doubleheader, FC Sarasota defeated Crossfire Premier 1-0. Finally, on Aug. 1, the team fell to Santa Clara Sporting 3-0.
Since the Surf Cup began, there hasn’t been a team from Florida that’s been successful enough to qualify for the semifinal round.
“My understanding is that no one has qualified from Florida,” coach Roy Hill said. “I just want us to have a great showing and if we can get into the last four that would be fantastic. “Hopefully, we can show that people in Florida can actually play soccer.”
FC Sarasota qualified for the Surf Cup after winning the Champions Directors League last fall at U16.
“That was the first time a team has been successful in the league,” Hill said. “We scored so many goals, it was just ridiculous. “We were far superior than the rest of the teams in our age bracket, so we’re actually going to play up this year.”
The team formed about two-and-one-half years ago after a pair of club soccer teams merged together. Since then, the team has developed into one of the most elite soccer teams on the west coast of Florida.
“We’re a bunch of funny and cool guys who can get serious when it comes to soccer,” Marshall said. “We come in looking to win. We don’t like to lose, so we try to be the best we can.”
The team practices four nights a week — twice at Tatum Ridge in Sarasota and twice at Heritage Harbour. Over the summer, the team also played in a few different local tournaments to prepare for the Surf Cup.
FC Sarasota will begin its season Sept. 11 and will continue playing until the end of October before the high school soccer season begins. This season, the team will play in the U18 division as a way to challenge itself both physically and mentally.
“They needed to be pushed to that next level,” Hill said. “I think we need to challenge ourselves and hopefully we’ll get a better understanding of soccer and hopefully it’ll help us improve.
“They’re probably the most intense boys in training,” he said. “They’re like sponges — they just want to keep learning. This is the end of it, but (most) of them want to go off and play in college or higher. It’s not just a game to them.”
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
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